Published on : Thursday, November 23, 2017
Although the kingdom has welcomes millions of Muslims pilgrims visiting Mecca each year, and it is now gearing up to attract conventional tourists as well.
Prince Sultan bin Salman, head of the Saudi tourism and national heritage commission, told CNNMoney that the targets are people who want to literally experience this country and the grandness of this country. In 2018, the kingdom wants to issue its first tourist visas. Earlier, the visas were restricted to people travelling to the country for work or for religious tourism to the holy sites.
Attracting tourists is a central plank of the country’s plan to reduce its reliance on oil. It’s aiming for 30 million visitors a year by 2030, up from 18 million in 2016, and it wants annual tourism spending to hit $47 billion by 2020. In the last couple of months, Saudi Arabia has ended up with several ambitious projects.
For instance, one of its projects include building resorts on about 100 miles of the Red Sea’s sandy coastline and it also wants to open a Six Flags (SIX) theme park by 2022. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is driving the economic overhaul, has also unveiled plans for a $500 billion metropolis that will extend across Saudi Arabia’s borders into Egypt and Jordan.
Senior research manager of Euromonitor said Saudi Arabia holds tremendous tourist potential due its favorable temperature, historical and cultural heritage, natural beauty and rich marine life. However, the surrounding politically unstable countries have always made it an issue for the tourists to visit.
When the U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning, it also stated that the security situation is the biggest challenge. The warning read ‘to carefully consider the risks of travel to Saudi Arabia’.
Currently, there are a few entertainment attractions. Interestingly, the kingdom hosted its first music concert this year, but only men were allowed to attend.